Sons of the Desert
|Sons of the Desert|
theatrical release poster
|Directed by||William A. Seiter|
|Produced by||Hal Roach|
|Screenplay by||Byron Morgan|
|Story by||Frank Craven|
|Music by||William Axt
George M. Cohan
|Edited by||Bert Jordan|
Sons of the Desert is a 1933 American Pre-Code film starring Laurel and Hardy, and directed by William A. Seiter. It was first released in the United States on December 29, 1933 and is regarded as one of Laurel and Hardy's greatest films. In the United Kingdom, the film was originally released under the title Fraternally Yours.
At a meeting of the Sons of the Desert, a fraternal lodge of which both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are members, it has been decided that the organization will be holding its annual convention in Chicago in a week and all members have to take an oath to attend. Stan is reluctant to take the oath, but Oliver goads him into it. Later, on the way home, Stan explains to Oliver his reluctance to take the oath; he is worried that his wife Betty will not let him go to the convention. Oliver tries to reassure Stan his wife has no choice but to let him go because he took a sacred oath. When they get home and Stan accidentally brings up the subject of the convention, however, it turns out Oliver's wife Lottie will not let him go as they had already arranged a mountain trip together (which Oliver had forgotten about). Oliver tries to cover his embarrassment by remarking to Stan that his wife is "only clowning", only for her to chuck a bowl at his head, followed by another one when he attempts to establish his authority as the boss of the house.
Unwilling to go back on the oath that he swore, but also unwilling to provoke further wrath from his wife, Oliver feigns illness to get out of the trip with his wife. Stan arranges for a doctor (actually a veterinarian) to prescribe an ocean voyage to Honolulu, with their wives staying home (Oliver is well aware how much ocean voyages disagree with his wife). Stan and Ollie go to the convention, with their wives none the wiser. Of course, they have a close call while drinking with a fellow conventioneer when as a practical joke their friend "Charley" calls his sister in Los Angeles... who turns out to be Mrs. Hardy! However, nothing comes of this. Having tempted fate by deceiving their wives, however, one can hardly be surprised when fate is indeed tempted. While Stan and Ollie are en route home from Chicago, their supposed ship arriving from Honolulu sinks in a typhoon and the wives head to the shipping company's offices to find out any news about the survivors. At the same time, Stan and Ollie, blissfully unaware as of yet of the shipwreck, return home as though from Honolulu (complete with leis, pineapples and a rousing ukulele song which, incidentally, had been part of the floor show entertainment at the Chicago convention!) and are confused by the empty houses. While Stan reads the paper, Ollie suddenly catches sight the headline of their supposed ship's demise and immediately grasps its grisly implications. He reads it out to Stan, who at first humorously remarks on what a good thing it was they didn't go to Honolulu; then, when it finally sinks in, he goes into a tizzy.
Panic-stricken, knowing their wives will know right away they never went to Honolulu and likely do them grievous bodily harm, they prepare to go to a hotel to spend the night, only to catch sight of their wives returning back home. They end up take refuge hastily in the attic and, as they can't escape, decide to camp out there. Meanwhile, the wives go to the cinema to calm their rattled nerves...and what should they see but a newsreel of the convention in which their husbands act like complete hams for the cameras! Furious at being deceived (Lottie more than Betty), they blame one another's wayward spouses, while Betty, knowing Stan lied for the first time ever to her, is still confident he will atone and confess, more than Lottie's Oliver will do. That outrages Lottie to the point of proposing a challenge to see whose husband is the truthful one. As for the husbands, their camping in the attic starts out smoothly enough but is interrupted loudly enough as to attract the attention of the wives (prompting Betty to investigate with her shotgun) and they manage to flee out of sight, escaping to the rooftop. When they can't get back in, Oliver sees this as their opportunity to follow their original plan of going to a hotel to pass the night. Stan, however, wants to go back home and confess to his wife but Oliver threatens, "If you go downstairs and spill the beans, I'll tell Betty that I caught you smoking a cigarette!"
They are about to make their way to a hotel to spend the night, but are stopped by a policeman who manages to get their home addresses from them thanks to Stan. The wives notice them coming, but while Lottie is all for shooting them the moment they walk through the door, Betty reminds her of their little argument that needs to be settled. Upon walking into the house, they tell the wives about the shipwreck. Then, when asked about how the pair of them had managed to get home a day before the rescue ship carrying the survivors was due, their story begins to unravel; they say they jumped ship and "ship-hiked" their way home. Then Lottie looks Oliver in the eye and asks him if his story is the truth. He insists it is; "It's too farfetched not to be the truth!" Then Betty asks Stan if Oliver's story is true. After a long silence Stan eventually breaks down and tearfully confesses them going to the convention, despite Oliver's previously mentioned threat. Betty picks up her shotgun while Stan continues whimpering and ominously says to her husband "Come along, Stanley.", highly implying that she is going to shoot him once they get home. After they leave, Oliver is left to face his wife's wrath at being made a fool of twice by him, and after failed attempts to charm her with babyish mannerisms, audaciously suggests going on the mountain trip they arranged in the first place - the last straw. Watched by her bemused husband, she empties the kitchen cupboards, piling up crockery. Meanwhile, on the Laurel's side of the house, Stan is seen wrapped in a dressing gown on the sofa, sipping wine and eating chocolates, being pampered by Betty, who relays the age old moral to him, "Honesty is the best policy." Stan agrees happily, as the sounds of hurled pieces of crockery start coming from the Hardy side. Lottie, in a livid frenzy, is throwing pots, pans and dishes at Ollie. After the maelstrom Stan arrives from next-door to compare notes, sees Hardy sitting in the wreckage and tells Ollie that his wife said that "honesty is the best politics!" Stan puffs on a once-forbidden cigarette, and then goes out the door singing "Honolulu Baby". Ollie vengefully hurls a pot at his head, upending him.
The fraternal organization seen in the film is styled to resemble the Shriners, known formally as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
- Stan Laurel as Stanley
- Oliver Hardy as Oliver
- Charley Chase as Charley
- Mae Busch as Mrs. Lottie Hardy
- Dorothy Christy as Mrs. Betty Laurel
- Lucien Littlefield as the Veterinarian
- Ty Parvis as the sailor in Honolulu Baby song and dance
- Charita as the lead Hawaiian hula dancer (Charita Alden)
Plus, an uncredited early film appearance of Robert Cummings as a ship steward
- "Honolulu Baby" – written by T. Marvin Hatley
- "Auld Lang Syne" – written by Robert Burns
- "We Are the Sons of the Desert" – written by Marvin Hatley
- "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!" – music and lyrics by George Frederick Root
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #96
- 2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- Oliver: "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" – #60
- 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- Sons of the Desert is a partial remake of 1928's We Faw Down.
- Another Laurel and Hardy Short film called Be Big! is very much the same storyline as this feature. Stan and Ollie are invited to a party with a club that the two attend. However, they are about to take their wives on holiday for the weekend. Ollie pretends to be ill and makes sure the wives still go, the boys will meet them there the next day, and Stan stays to look after him. They get changed into their uniforms which causes many problems such as Stan putting on Ollie's boots by mistake. However, in Be Big, Stan is initially unaware of the party at their club until Ollie fills him in, and then tells him his sick act was a charade.
The international Laurel and Hardy society The Sons of the Desert takes its name from this feature film.
The title was also used as the name of a country group and the Danish comedy quartet "Ørkenens sønner" (1991-2016), the literal translation of the movie's title. The comedy group uses the basic theme of a fraternal organization, and their stage costumes are identical to the ones used in the movie's organization. Even their theme song is a translation of the one from the movie. Though adult themed, their gags and jokes resemble the ones seen at the movies Chicago party.
Furthermore, the movie's plot, itself recycled and revised from We Faw Down and Be Big!, may very well have been the inspiration for The Cosby Show episode "Off to See The Wretched". Like Stan and Ollie, Vanessa and her friends finagle a long-distance road trip to a rock concert fooling their parents, but everything that can go wrong does (mostly in the form of thefts unto them; first their car, then their tickets, and finally their money), including a twist of fate that destroys their alibi (a fire right next door to one of Vanessa's friends' house where they were supposed to be staying), and the parents eventually discover the real truth about the concert's whereabouts via the news (which is also how they found out about the fire next door the friend's house).
Another example was an inspiration for The Flintstones episode "The Buffalo Convention". Like Stan & Ollie, Fred & Barney fake an illness ("dipsy-doodle-itis") in which the doctor (who's really a plumber) can send them off by themselves, away from their wives. Unfortunately, a so-called "talking dodo bird" that Fred gave Wilma as a present, a pet, proves to really be a talking bird...who knows everything about Fred and Barney's ploy, and so must also be a stool pigeon! They get rid of the bird and go to their convention in Frantic City, but the wives happen to find the bird...and discover it really can talk, spilling the beans about Fred and Barney's game! This was a running gag—other Flintstone Episodes of Fred and Barney faking illness to get away from their wives-and failing as usual—are "The Flintstone Flyer" & "Peek A Boo Camera"
- King, Susan. "National Film Registry selects 25 films for preservation " Los Angeles Times (December 19, 2012)
- "Detail view of Movies Page".
- "Charita". IMDb.
- "Honolulu Baby Lyrics". International Lyrics Playground. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "Soundtracks for Sons of the Desert". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 10 March 2013.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). Retrieved 21 August 2016.
- "Sons of the Desert". TCM.
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